Art in the Mail: Kelly Kits review

During my online holiday shopping this season, I stumbled upon a product that was an absolute God-send. Art kits that come in the mail with all the supplies included! Can anyone else say “hallelujah”?

Kelly Kits Art Review

And I’m not referring to craft kits. This is real art—sculpting, painting, drawing, collage, and printmaking—complete with a mini-lesson on a famous artist and a cross-curriculum lesson incorporating another subject. Kelly Kits are sold as a monthly subscription service (purchased monthly or annually) or in packaged kits of 5 projects. The subscription packages come with enough supplies for two projects, $9.99 a month including shipping.

But when I received our art in the mail, I’ll be honest, I was a little disappointed. It was soap-sculpting. Sculpting soap was an art project I must have skipped at least three different times last year. I had no desire to see my children make a mess with a bar of soap and butter knife. I didn’t want the tears when their tools slipped and carved into their masterpiece. And I didn’t want to end up carving for them.

So when our mail-project included a bar of soap, I was bummed. (Why not watercolor, pastels, or print-making?) And yet, it couldn’t have been more perfect to illustrate the awesome-ness of Kelly Kits. Here I was at the kitchen table with everything my kids would need for this project: two bars of soap, different sized carving tools, and templates. I had no excuse.

Kelly Kits Art review


Kelly Kits art review

Of course, the kids thought it was fantastic. I showed them the instructions and helped to get them started (I traced the template onto their soap for them). Then I let them get to work. They needed a little help from me but did most on their own. And they loved every moment of it. When they were done, they even carved embellishments, a face and scarf on the snowman and ornaments for the tree. Because I had everything I needed, my kids got to enjoy a project that I definitely would have continued to skip over.

Our mini artist lesson was on Michelangelo. It gave an example project to google, a brief bio, and a couple of age-appropriate discussion questions.

The bonus was a science lesson and experiment with the left-over soap shavings. We learned about molecules and surface tension.

I did the whole kit in one morning. The kids had so much fun that they couldn’t believe they had done school. Because, of course, learning about sculpting, Michelangelo, molecules, and surface tension doesn’t count as school, right?

Kelly Kits art review

If art is something you have trouble fitting in, or if you’d just like the convenience of having all you need right at your fingertips, Kelly Kits are awesome!  You just can’t beat getting art in the mail, with project supplies, instructions, and everything included.I have been super-impressed with Kelly and with her Kelly Kits. Her YouTube videos are also fantastic and really give you a good picture of what the projects include.

Check out the new Kelly Kit website and art videos, or visit her Facebook page.

Children in Church review

Photobucket Children in Church: nurturing hearts of worship, written by Curt and Sandra Lovelace and published by Hal and Melanie Young of, is a book that exceeded my expectations. It is well-written, easy to read, and packed with helpful tips on incorporating your children into the worship service.

When I first received the printed edition of this book for review, I was skeptical, but after I moved past the first couple of chapters, I couldn’t put the book down. In fact, I stayed up late to finish the book on the same day that I received it!

The first chapter begins with examples from Scripture where children are included in worship throughout the Old and New Testament. The following chapters share experiences the authors have had with their own children and with other families, reactions to their ideas from others, and then specific suggestions to successfully make the transition of bringing a child into the service.

The 160 page book was filled with anecdotes that I could relate to as well as suggested tips and activities that I immediately knew would appeal to my children. The gradual process of getting them more and more involved in the service seemed not only plausible but appealing.

I also appreciated repeated advice to discuss with your spouse and to make committed decisions about everything from what activities are permissible and what constitutes a distraction to what steps should be taken for discipline and when those steps would be necessary. The authors acknowledge that the decision to bring young children into a service is not always a popular decision and provide both advice and anecdotes of situations where the issue is debated.

Another aspect I loved were the many stories of how the author invited other young children to sit with her to help the parents train their young ones for the service. The stories showed a genuine love for children and a compassionate, non-judgemental spirit toward those parents who might be struggling with the process. In fact, this compassionate, gracious tone is throughout the book. I did not feel judged for having placed my children in nursery, and I did not feel guilty for having a less-than-angelic child disrupt a service.

Tips included practical suggestions for taking the stress out of Sunday morning preparation, preparing your heart (and your child’s heart) for the service, and age-appropriate activities for nursing babes to adolescents. Things like having a church bag with activities purchased and dedicated solely for the service, drawing along with your child during the service, and having beginning readers circle words they could read in the bulletin were a few of my favorite suggestions.

I have loved using many of these ideas with my two oldest children who sit with us during the evening services in our church. The first night I tried these ideas, my husband was preaching, which meant I had my five year old and my four year old in the service with me ALL BY MYSELF. I tried the suggestion of drawing with my children to help them connect with the message. It went so well that I afterwards told my husband I really felt that I got to worship with my children rather than merely try to control behavior so that I could worship.

activities for children in church

The authors, Chris and Sandra Lovelace, were discipled by Francis and Edith Schaeffer and served on staff at L’Abri in Switzerland. They’ve served as missionaries in the Cayman Islands, worked in a small rural church in Maine, and led homeschool conferences in Bosnia. They currently minister as directors of Lifework Forum, a ministry that reaches out to international homeschoolers. Curt and Sandra now live in Prague where they can more effectively encourage homeschoolers in both Europe and Africa. As parents of two daughters and with over three decades of ministry experience, the couple is well-qualified to instruct parents of young children on this topic.

Overall, I loved Children in Church and would highly recommend the book to others. The book is available for $12 a copy, or purchase in bulk, 10 or more copies for $6.50. Find out more about the Lovelaces and Children in Church or visit their Facebook page. Then, visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew and read what others thought about this book or the historical fiction book A Cry from Egypt also available from



homeschool product reviews


Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are mine.

Reading Kingdom Review

online reading and writing program
Reading Kingdom is an online program for grades Preschool through 3rd grade that teaches kids how to read and write. The system was developed by Dr. Marion Blank, a world-renowned expert on literacy, and incorporates elements of phonics and whole language, teaching six basic steps toward reading: sequencing, motor skills, sounds, meaning, reading, and comprehension.

 6 reading skills

I used this program with Middlest, who is entering K4. She has a great grasp of letters and their sounds and is about half way through blend work, beginning to put together three letter words. The approach to this program, I felt, was based largely on the “write to read” style of teaching reading, with the exception being that the “writing” is actually typing. Because of that, a huge part of the program is learning to use a keyboard to find letters. Lots of attention is also spent on sequencing and spelling skills.

 Reading Kingdom




The concept of the program is that the child learns the words that will appear in each story so that when the child first reads, he reads with success. Perhaps because of this approach, the order of words learned is a little odd. For instance, when Middlest moved into the second level (which took about 3 weeks), she had to learn to spell kid, girl, kids, girls, and some. Because sounding out is not really taught, she was supposed to memorize the word by spelling it or by sequencing the letters.

Skills tests allow you to place a child correctly. There is also the option to reassess if you feel your child wasn’t assessed correctly the first time. The program provides lots of drill, rehearsing the same concepts over and over again as the child accumulates points and earns different passports and elements within the passport. The graphics are colorful and appealing, and many of the icons that popped up after my daughter answered correctly had her laughing hysterically.

online reading and writing programThis program would probably be ideal for struggling readers or for a child that needs a slower pace. Though Middlest said she really enjoyed the program, I was personally frustrated with the rate of progress for each lesson. It took roughly 5 seconds for each new question to load. Directions were repeated for each question, even though the directions were the exact same as the last 5 or 6 questions. Though this repetition might be necessary for some students, it added to the delay since my daughter could not answer a question until the directions were finished. I had to sit with her and help her to refocus when it was her turn to answer.

Another feature of the program is that helps are automatic if the student delays or answers incorrectly. I can definitely see how this would prevent a student from becoming discouraged, but I also saw my daughter manipulate this and wait for an answer that I knew she could have gotten on her own. Or, if it took her too long to refocus after the delay, she’d already been given hints for the answer when I knew she could have gotten it on her own (though I did notice that you can now adjust the delay time). Because of these factors, I did not feel it was wise to let her do this independently. I worked closely with her through each lesson, reminding her each time when it was her turn to answer and making sure she didn’t wait for the answers to be given to her.

As I mentioned, none of these problems bothered my daughter. She is very hands-on and loves computer work. She progressed well through the program and, apart from the skills test, never gave me any complaint about the program. As a matter of fact, she often asked if she could do “the owl lessons.” She also learned to find all of her letters on the keyboard and was able to practice quite a bit of spelling.

sequencing skills


Middlest celebrating a correct answer with a big “Yessss!”

Though I will probably allow her to continue with this program as a supplemental activity, I would not replace our current phonics program.

As an alternative to the phonics or whole reading approach, this program is a fun option. It’s also an engaging complement to a “write to read” approach. Reading Kingdom may be used as a supplement or as a primary reading curriculum. Subscriptions are $19.99/month for the first child and $9.99/month for additional children. Sign up for a free 30 day trial, or read how others used the program at the Schoolhouse Review Crew.


homeschool product reviews


Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are mine.

IXL Math review

When the opportunity came up to review IXL Math, my interest was piqued. I’d explored the website several times before and taken advantage of the daily allowance of 20 math questions that you can answer without a subscription, and I knew it was something my kids enjoyed doing.


IXL Math is an online math program with over 2,000 skills for preschool through algebra, available in over 150 countries and meeting all state standards. It is “math for the left and right brain.” The program provides a list of topics per grade; and though I experimented with just picking and choosing topics for my oldest to cover, I really found that it worked best when I let the kids go through the lessons in order, beginning with the topics that I knew they had down well. I was also pleasantly surprised to find how challenging the topics were.



Each topic provides a number of questions for the students to answer and has optional audio clips for each question so that both the question and the answers can be either read or listened to, which means my preschooler was able to work through the lessons pretty independently. Each correctly answered question earns points; incorrect questions deduct points. By the time the child has earned the 100 point total, they have mastered the topic. The lessons took anywhere from 2 to 3 minutes for the topics my kids knew well to around 20 minutes on new topics. Once a lesson is mastered, the child is awarded a gold medal and different icon toys on their Awards page.



The program does not provide initial instruction on the topics, instead the child is provided with explanations on the questions answered incorrectly. Consequently, for a number of the topics it would probably be helpful to introduce the concept to your child first and then reinforce the concept with IXL Math. I also enjoyed the weekly reports that were emailed to me and kept me informed of total practice time for each child and their accomplishments.

IXL Math is available for a monthly subscription of $9.95 or $79 for the year. And another terrific feature is that a subscription give you access to all of the topics and grade levels, which works especially well if your child is in between grades. IXL Math also allows you to play around on their site and answer a number of the questions without a subscription, giving you a great feel for the site before you subscribe.

My kids ask to do math! For them, it’s not “school”; it’s an opportunity to play on the computer. How can a mom resist that!

Read more reviews over at the Schoolhouse Review Crew.



Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are mine.


Time 4 Learning

I recently had the opportunity to review, a welcome opportunity to help us through the transition of homeschooling with a new baby.

"It's time for learning!"

Time4Learning is an award-winning online education program for preschool through eighth grade that uses multimedia activities to teach standards-based curriculum. It is a popular homeschool curriculum, afterschool tutorial, summer skill sharpener and test preparation tool.

First of all, I was thrilled to see the range of subjects that they covered: language arts, math, science, and social studies. Another aspect that I loved was the ability to select which lessons to do. I could customize the program for what my son needed to cover. Each lesson is short, about 10 to 15 minutes, and comes with a printable worksheet and a quiz.

Time4Learning has programs for preschool through the eighth grade and provides lesson plans for an overall view of what is covered.

I chose to have him start with first grade material, and was really pleased with the reading/language arts, which included timed readings in addition to phonics sounds, sight words, and the usual topics. The readings gaged how fast he read and how fast he should be reading, had him read the passage along with the narrator, and provided comprehension questions about the reading. My son loved the math lessons, but I found that the lessons were a little too short here. He failed the end-of-lesson quizzes nearly every time, even though he had done well with the lesson itself. The lessons provided an introduction to the concept and some explanation but did not provide enough drill for my son to really grasp the material, even with the provided worksheets. (Of course, math has not been his strength this year, either.)


The science and social studies were very interactive, and he spent a long time clicking through the science lessons on habitat and animals.

Though Time4Learning might not have been the perfect fit for our everyday homeschool, it was a fun supplement to what we were doing, a break from the normal pace, and a definite help for me as I adjust to teaching from the couch with a baby attached.

Membership is $19.95/month for the first child and $14.95/month for each additional child. You can also check out the lesson plans and free demo lesson or take advantage of their 14-day money back guarantee.

 *Disclaimer: I was provided with a one-month free trial membership in exchange for this review. However, all opinions are my own.

Reading Eggs Review

A few weeks ago I was offered a free trial of Reading Eggs in exchange for a review. The opportunity could not have come at a better time. With baby#3 just days away and our a lot of our regular school winding down for the break, it was the perfect time to transition to something new (and let mommy have a little bit of a break).


Reading Eggs- Learn to Read Online with Phonics in 5 Weeks from ages 3-13
Reading Eggs is a language arts computer program that provides multiple levels of activity from preschool through upper elementary, covering letter sounds and phonics to reading comprehension and spelling. The lessons are organized by “maps” that the child works through. At the end of the map (or about 10 lessons), the child is quizzed and is able to earn rewards for his progress. Children are also rewarded throughout each lesson or activity with “golden eggs” which they can use to purchase accessories for their avatar.

Let me say first of all, that the program is very interactive and appealing; my kids absolutely love this program. Most of my problems come when it’s time to put it away. I think they’d play on it all day long if I let them.

I had my Little One starting out at their very first reading lesson, learning letters, blends, and sight words. My son took the assessment test and was placed at a higher level.

What I’ve loved…

  • For both of my kids, I’ve really appreciated the computer skills they’ve gained from the lessons. Some of the tasks have been rather difficult for them, and I’ve had to occasionally step in and do the computer task while they provided the answers. But for the most part, with a little instruction, the kids have learned to click-and-drag answers (even my coordinated three year old), click on moving objects, and type letters using the keyboard (during my son’s spelling lessons).
  • I also appreciate the variety and the differing perspective from what we’re used to. I think it’s been extremely helpful to have my kids challenged by information that they know presented in a format they’ve never seen before.
  • For my daughter, I’ve loved the practice that she gets identifying sounds and letters. Each lesson comes with about 10-12 activities that have her practicing the information in a different way. First, she’ll learn to find the letter among other letters, then she’ll find the letter within a word; she’ll match the correct picture to the letter, or find the letter in a variety of different fonts. At the end of each lesson, she makes her own virtual word book and then is given another word book to listen to.
  • My son’s lessons have really challenged his listening skills and his ability to follow directions. Though his blend work and reading lessons are basically review (I think his lack of computer skills placed him a little lower than his reading skills), he has still gained a lot from the activities that have had him constructing sentences and spelling words.

Also, there are so many different activities to choose from outside the lessons that we haven’t even gotten a chance to try them all out: reading comprehension, spelling bank, quizzes, and so much more. At the preschool level, there is a “playroom” loaded with fun activities to improve computer skills: paint a picture, make a pizza, decorate a bedroom, etc.

What I haven’t liked…

First of all, there isn’t much. This is a great program to use all by itself or as a supplement during those times in our lives when homeschooling gets to be more difficult (like before/after a new baby).

  • A different approach. The program takes a different approach to phonics than what we have used. The blends are taught at the end of the word (at, bat, cat, mat, rat; am, Sam, etc.) rather than at the beginning of the word (sa, se, si, so, su). There’s probably nothing wrong with this approach; it’s just different, and I obviously prefer the method I’ve had success with.
  • A high-level of motor skills required. This has been both a positive and a negative for us. I love that my kids are learning these skills, as our world is so extremely technology-centered. However, it did seem that some of the lessons were not appropriately matched to their skills. For instance, there were some activities that were actually difficult for me to complete at the speed they demanded, and I’m fairly coordinated/computer-savvy.

Summing it up…

Overall, this program has been a great experience for us. I’m really excited about what my kids are learning from it, and even more excited about how much it has freed me up to rest and simply monitor their learning (i.e. homeschool with my feet up).

Because I’m really happy with A Beka for phonics and reading, I personally wouldn’t be ready to switch to Reading Eggs for our entire program. However, in addition to yearly plans, they also offer monthly subscriptions—and I would definitely consider a temporary subscription to pull us through busy times in the future.

  • Email me that you are interested at tracyglockle(at)gmail(dot)com, and I’ll send you a code for a free trial.
  • Also, there are a variety of free codes that you can find simply by performing a google search (I acquired a second code for my son to try it out by simply googling).
  • Or, there is also a discount code for half-off a yearly subscription.

I am participating in a sponsored campaign hosted by The Homeschool Lounge Review Team. I received a 5 week membership to Reading Eggs to facilitate this review. All opinions stated are my own.

THL Moms